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THE STRENGTH OF METHODISM.
Any view of the religious movements, which have affected the condition and Church of England, would be incomplete, which did not include some sketch of the Methodists. That body has now been organized for above a century, and, if we put together the various sections, into which it is divided, it will be found to number in England at least a million of members *; to supply accommodation in its Chapels for two millions and a quarter of the population, and to be served by 1800 ministers, and 28,000 local preachers. In America it has 1,200,000 members, and 9000 ministers and preachers. It is vigorous in the West Indies, in British North America, and Australia. It has branches in the Channel Islands, and in France. It has sent forth
* See the census tables : In Yorkshire, Methodism supplies nearly the same amount of accommodation as the Church ; a much larger amount than the Church in Durham and Cornwall—while in Northumberland, Staffordshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Wales, it is strong in numbers.
missions to the Heathen, where it occupies above 200 stations; employs nearly 500 missionaries, and its missions are sustained by an income of upwards of £100,000 a year. In Great Britain, it possesses numerous schools, well frequented; a Training School for 100 Teachers, with a practising school of 1000 children, and two Colleges for the education of its ministers.* It presents this feature, that, though separated from the Church of England, and not, as it seems, likely to be reunited, it maintains, towards the Church, the friendly attitude which at first distinguished it.
Its congregations are indeed separated from the Church, and its preachers are often the opponents of the Anglican Clergyman. But the councils of the body are friendly, and, when dissenting or political enmity has threatened the Church of England, the Methodists have always ranged themselves on its side. This tendency they derive from their founders, whose authority is still great with them; and it is not a little remarkable, that, whatever zeal the Methodist Society has produced, those, who remain its chiefs, are the men who established it. Mahomet indeed, or Loyola might envy the power of John Wesley; certainly they did not wield over their followers a more unchallenged ascendancy. Wesley's writings are still the depository
* The Wesleyans alone have 447 day-schools, with 246 trained teachers in them. They have 401,000 Sunday scholars, of whom 159,000 attend day-schools. (See Report Conference at Birmingham, August, 1854.)
of Methodist views, his rules still guide the society; his laws are unchanged; the deed drawn up by him is still their Magna Charta. If you ask a Methodist for the history or doctrines of his sect, he places in your hands the Journal and Sermons, the Commentary and Letters of John Wesley.
Over a smaller section of Methodists, the authority of George Whitefield prevailed. But the traces of his influence are faint, and his power has hardly survived him. While he lived, he was a master and he exercised, as an orator, a vast ascendancy. I cannot do justice to the history or principles of Methodism, without presenting a sketch of both these remarkable men. For a time their history runs in the same channel - but the streams soon diverge, and we shall follow each separately to its close.